Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


End of legislative session points to partisanship

While the legislative session that began in January 2011 and ended last Friday is now a thing of the
past, its impact is still reverberating through the state of Wisconsin. If there were such a thing as a
political seismograph– you know, those devices that measure earthquakes and look like lie detectors– the
graph from the past year and a half would look like a series of quakes in the seven to nine range on a
Richter scale.

Like earthquakes measurements on a seismograph, this legislative session had its ups and
downs. Capitol politicians succeeded in passing several important bipartisan measures, making sure
youth athletes are removed from organized sports if they have suffered a concussion, preventing Florida
mining firm Gogebic Taconite from initiating a massive open iron mine in northern Wisconsin and most
importantly, making it easier for home brewers to share their beer and wine, as reported by The Cap Times – which may be the most
historically important and enlightened political accomplishment of the year. Unfortunately these small
victories were isolated glimpses of political normalcy and common sense on both sides of the aisle in
what was otherwise a sea of partisan discord.

The overriding theme of the past year in Wisconsin politics has been a widening gap between
the right and the left. A never-ending series of partisan clashes that began in earnest with the repeal of
collective bargaining
in February has pushed Democrats and Republicans further and further to their
respective extremes – the result is a Wisconsin more polarized down party lines than ever before.


Republicans held the governor’s office and majorities in the Assembly and Senate, so the
outcome of a legislative session favored the GOP. Gov.
Scott Walker and his colleagues were able to adopt an uncompromising resolve in their agenda and had
no need to consult with Democrats before passing legislation. Conversely, Democrats resorted to stall
tactics like filibustering and becoming political refugees in the state of Illinois in a desperate effort to
stem the flow of Republican legislation.

I read an article in the Wisconsin State Journal titled, “Analysis: Winners, losers emerge in
legislative session.” It listed Walker, Republicans, wind energy and real estate developers as “winners,”
Democrats, venture capital and public schools as “losers.” It’s true, these interest groups have reaped
short-term gains from the results of this legislative session, but in the long run, no one stands to benefit.
A number of the major bills passed during this session have gone to court over questions of
constitutionality, and in all likelihood collective bargaining will be reinstated as soon as Democrats
regain a majority, so whatever policy changes have been made in the past year are at best temporary.

The net result of the past year in Wisconsin politics is simply a polarization of the state
government. The state is at a loss because elected officials have demonstrated
time and again their lack of interest in compromise and bipartisan progress, and shown that their
commitment to party politics is greater than their commitment to creating pragmatic policy that benefits the people of Wisconsin. There are few signs that the next year will do anything to unify the

Wisconsin is in serious need of moderate voices in state government.
In today’s political scene, nothing is more radical or more rare than a true moderate who is
willing to work across the aisle to break the political gridlock and get things done. In any given election,
about 50 percent of voters go left, and the other half goes right. At the moment, state government
represents this division as two diametrically opposed extremes, rather than representing the average of
Wisconsin’s political opinions. However, most voters are neither full-fledged conservative Republicans,
nor true blue liberal Democrats, but something in between. Moderate politicians in state government
would not only represent these middle block of voters, but serve as a unifying voice to stabilize what
has become a back and forth game of political hardball.

Republicans blamed the Democratic senators for leaving to Illinois and holding backroom
meetings, but essentially all legislation this session was passed by the GOP without consulting
Democrats, much of crafted in the same sort of backroom strategy sessions. Democrats blamed the
Republicans for not creating enough jobs in the state, even as they stonewalled any piece of legislation
put forth by their opponents, whether it would create jobs or not. What is clear is that the problem isn’t
the Republicans or the Democrats. The problem with Capitol politics is that these
two parties refuse to cooperate. Until they can see beyond their own party lines, and until voters can
elect moderate representatives, polarized politics will continue to be the greatest roadblock to
progress facing the state of Wisconsin.

Charles Godfrey ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in physics and math.

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